There’s been a lot of digging in and grinding of teeth over the emerging Democratic leadership battle in the House. Most readers are focused on whether Nancy Pelosi should stay caucus leader in the new Congress. But at this point, that seems to be a given. A handful of Reps. from swing districts have said they won’t support her. But just a sprinkling. And no one with even a remote chance of success has come forward to oppose her. That makes a lot of the left-right drama, or questions about the optics of Pelosi either stepping down or not stepping down, sort of moot since she’s staying.
The question, as we noted on Friday, is what happens to Steny Hoyer, the more conservative leaning member of the Democratic leadership. As discussed, Pelosi’s team seems pretty clearly to have coordinated in some fashion to support and time the candidacies of the two guys on the totem poll beneath Hoyer — the outgoing whip, James Clyburn and Caucus Chair John Larson. There are four top offices in the majority; three in the minority. So someone’s out. And it seems impossible not to conclude that Pelosi’s team moved fast to make sure Hoyer was that guy.
That’s not surprising on the one hand since the two have had a notoriously strained relationship, though apparently they worked more closely together in the last two years. Pelosi supported John Murtha against Hoyer after the Dems took over in 2006. What’s not clear to me is why Pelosi thought now would be a good time for divisive leadership fight between Hoyer and James Clyburn. That just strikes me as an odd choice. At least in the current configuration, it’s not Pelosi or Hoyer. It’s about whether the top three move step a rung down the ladder together, thus displacing Caucus Chair John Larson or whether you pit Hoyer and Clyburn against each other. That strikes me as a very odd choice.
Apparently both men are working the phones furiously this weekend trying to line up support.
A key fact to remember: these elections are by secret ballot.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.